April 3, 2014
Most people probably are familiar with some degree of test anxiety – uneasiness or feeling unprepared prior to a test, especially an important one. The problem is more serious for a great many others who suffer from a lack of confidence, dread, fear and inability to concentrate while taking an exam. Some people even draw a blank when it comes to facts and figures they’ve studied and otherwise know. Test anxiety can affect not only academic performance, but self-esteem and overall health as well, and it is observed in all age groups. Studies show that many young people with test anxiety are at risk of one day dropping out of school.
In today’s fast-paced societies and global economy, where future success is measured in large part by how we do on the tests we take in school and in the job market, the pressure to perform starts at an early age. By the time students reach high school, doing poorly on important tests increasingly can seriously impact their future. Test anxiety is so prevalent that a number of research studies, including a federally funded one by researchers at the Institute of HeartMath in collaboration with Claremont Graduate University faculty and students, have been undertaken in recent years. The results are alarming.
A significant majority, 61%, of high school students suffer from test anxiety and 26% are handicapped by test anxiety often or most of the time.
As with all forms of anxiety, test anxiety basically is rooted in some type of fear, but the faces of this particular type of fear and its causes are many and varied: fear of failure, lack of self-confidence, fear of blanking out on tests, poor time management or study habits, lack of organization and concern over how test results will impact future plans, among others.
These negative emotions can lead test takers to feel overwhelmed. When that happens, anxiety creates a kind of “noise” or mental static in the brain that blocks our ability to retrieve what’s stored in memory, and it also greatly impairs our ability to comprehend and reason.
The key to understanding how anxiety inhibits cognitive and physical performance lies in understanding how emotions affect the rhythmic activity in the nervous system, says IHM Director of Research Dr. Rollin McCraty. Feelings such as frustration, anger, and anxiety cause the neural activity in the two branches of the autonomic nervous system to get out of sync. This in turn affects the synchronized activity in the brain, disrupting our ability to think clearly. Conversely, uplifting feelings such as appreciation lead to increased harmony and synchronization in the brain and nervous system which help us think clearly.
Take a few minutes with this simple Asset/Deficit Balance Sheet to track your emotions and thoughts to see where you’re spending your energy.
The primary purpose of this study was to investigate how effective the TestEdge program would be in reducing stress and anxiety and improving emotional well-being, quality of relationships, and academic performance in students. This involved determining the magnitude, correlates, and consequences of stress and test anxiety among public school students. A second programmatic purpose was to characterize the implementation of the program in relation to its receptivity, coordination, and administration in a wide variety of school systems with diverse cultural, administrative and situational characteristics.
Researchers focused on 980 10th-graders for the primary study, using pre- and post-TestEdge program measures. They analyzed questionnaires, interviews, observations, student drawings and test scores from the California High School Exit Examination and the California Standards Test. They also used heart-rate-variability measures to determine whether students had learned the TestEdge program techniques of shifting into a state of coherence between the heart and brain prior to taking a stressful test. The secondary study involved qualitative investigations of the TestEdge program implemented in schools in California, Delaware, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, Texas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Key findings of the primary study:
Go to Neutral: The next time you feel anxiousness or dread before a test, or if you’re “totally stressed out” about it, do this simple exercise adapted from the HeartMath Go to Neutral Tool. (See our Recommendations).
“The students made gains that were significant because they represented one to two years’ growth in reading or math with only one month of preparation and instruction. This clearly shows that in teaching students how to use the HeartMath tools, they were able to reduce their test-taking anxiety and more accurately show us what they know.”
Developing effective ways to help teachers and schools provide our nation’s children with the best possible educational experience is of paramount concern at the Institute of HeartMath today. We’ve spent many years researching the physiology of learning and developing programs to help children attain their maximum level of performance – in the classroom, socially and at home.
The TestEdge® classroom programs were designed to give teachers the tools they need to turn their classrooms into dynamic and productive learning centers. The Resilient Educator® program is helping teachers and other educators increase resiliency and mental clarity and renew their motivation in these stressful times in our nation’s schools and classrooms. The Qualified Instructor Program® is training professional trainers, teachers, administrators, counselors and others to teach HeartMath skills. And TestEdge Interactive Learning Program CD’s are suitable for home or classroom use, so the student can get the benefits of TestEdge in the privacy of his or her study area at home.
emWave®: Regular use of this scientifically validated, stress-relief technology has proven to be a vital tool in reducing anxiety, stress, anger, emotional chaos and boosting energy and vitality. The emWave technology is easy to use and noninvasive. It will help you achieve heart coherence – synchronization between the heart and brain – and reach your optimal physical, mental and emotional balance. When your emotions are in balance, you stop the energy drain and start the energy gain. Then, by practicing the easy-to-learn techniques you’ll receive with your emWave only minutes a day will help you revitalize and re-energize your mind, body and spirit anytime, anywhere.
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“I used (the emWave) to calm myself down before my exams and felt the feeling of appreciation surge through me. … The results were staggering. This is a tool I can use for the rest of my career, and not only with test-taking, but general stressful situations as well.”
emWave® Pro: emWave Pro turns your computer into a self-contained heart-rhythm-coherence monitor and manager. It lets you see how thoughts and emotions affect your heart rhythms – negative ones pulling you down and draining your energy, positive ones lifting you up and allowing your body to perform its normal function of replenishing your energy. Discover how easily you can reduce your stress level and replace those negative emotions with positive ones that, with a little practice, can give you instant energy boosts and gradually help build a more invigorated you. Relying on decades of scientific research, the emWave Pro, in tandem with key HeartMath techniques that you’ll receive and easily learn, will help you increase your energy and start living life more fully.
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